AIC Girdlestone - Ruapehu
It was a brilliant day out! Got some rope pitch practice in and still made good enough time to bag Tahurangi on our way down.
Addition by Kobus Boshoff
After considering various options we decided to make our base at a backpackers lodge in Ohakune. This allowed us to get to bed at a reasonable time on Friday night and be close to the Turoa car park for an early start on Saturday. After dealing with the usual Friday evening Kapiti traffic, we reached Ohakune at around 10pm and hit the sac shortly after that.
Saturday morning we rose at 5 and started walking from Turoa just after 6am. Made our way up the south side of the deserted ski field and approached Girdlestone from the south-west. Decided to climb up a narrow shute. We all agreed that using rope up the chute was optional but fresh off the AIC we were keen for rope experience. And besides, if we carry that rope all the way up there we might as well get some use out of it. So we did 2 pitches up the chute.
Up to here the snow was firm with a crust of ice and bits of rime. Going up the chute the ice got chunkier the higher we climbed. Luckily Jadria emphasized the advantages of choosing sheltered spots for setting up belay. So the belayers were sheltered enough when it seemed like the climbers were chucking ice at them. We topped out on a shoulder from where we had to negotiate rimey dragon scale to a ridge. Traversing the dragon scale was "interesting". From the ridge we sidled across the top of the SW slope, under a bluff. From here we picked a chute up Girdlestone peak. From the top of the chute it was a short, steep climb to the summit. The snow as we sidled across the slope was a bit soft for comfort. It made for slow, very careful moving. We had spectacular views from Girdlestone summit. The clear, sunny and still weather was quite a treat. We had a quick lunch as we soaked up the views. We were keen to make up time so we could still summit Tahurangi, and also wanted to get off the mountain before the snow deteriorated.
Down the north ridge and across the Mangaehuehu glacier to Skyline ridge it got pretty hot. The snow going down Girdlestone was suboptimal which slowed us down again. Traversing the glacier and up to Skyline ridge it firmed up which was pretty nice.
When we reached Skyline ridge we left our packs behind and only took the essentials (like an extra layer) to the summit of Tahurangi. Travelling light we sauntered up and reached the summit around 3pm. Looking back we were able to take pictures of ourselves on Girdlestone summit. Well actually it couldn't be us anymore it was a different group :-) Stunning views of Girdlestone, the crater lake, and most of the Ruapehu peaks.
Going down was a lot quicker. Once we were out of our crampons, we used every opportunity to bum-slide down the slopes. Got back to the car at 5pm feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. I would have had to eat half a lemon to get the smile off my face. Truly an epic day. Oh, did I mention that we were tired? We were tired. Very Tired. Happy tired!
That night we went for a meal at a local sports pub. Some of us stayed behind to watch the All Blacks and Springboks slog it out in a good game of rugby while the rest of the group opted for a deep relationship with a pillow.
It's fair to say that on Sunday our motivation levels were not the same as the day before. The weather prospects were dubious and we already achieved both our goals (Girdlestone and Tahurangi). We had a later start but went to Turoa nevertheless. The sun was again shining and the skies were clear and the mountain beckoning. So we kitted up and set off without a firm plan for the day. It was a bit breezy when we started and the wind was picking up. As we ascended in the general direction of Paretetaitonga, exposure to the increasing persistence of the wind made it clear that we were not going to summit anything significant on that day.
Jadria who had not been well from the start made a good call that she was better off going to the Cafeteria for a hot chocolate. The rest of us set off for a bit of a play on the lower lee slopes. Back at the car around 12 we set off back home.
It was a memorable weekend. Our experienced and highly competent trip leader (Jadria) who was also an instructor at the recent AIC did a marvellous job. The rest of our small team (Ted, Niel and Kobus) had the opportunity to apply our new skills and gain experience and confidence. The mountain and the elements smiled upon us and treated us to its finest hospitality.
- 4 Party TTC members
- Jane Cincotta - leader and Kobus Bohoff (co-scribed)